This winter season is on the verge of being a letdown for outdoor enthusiasts.
Not only has there been a lack of snowfall, what has come down has melted away within days because of record high temperatures.
The reason for the mild winter is simple, the National Weather Service in Duluth reported, the arctic jet stream has remained far north, keeping cold air out of the Midwest.
Overall, the snowfall between the 2000-2001 winter and the 2001-2002 winter has been comparable, Mark Mortensen, program forester with the DNR reported. From November through January, 23 total inches of snow has fallen. During those same months in 2000-2001, 31.5 inches had fallen.
However, 23.5 inches of snow fell in February 2001, and for that winter season a total of 60.5 inches fell in the Brainerd lakes area.
More telling, and more surprising, than lack of snowfall has been the high temperatures. Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist with the Minnesota Climatology Office, DNR Division of Water, said since his department began keeping records in 1890, the 2001-2002 winter season has been the warmest span ever. It was 50 degrees in Brainerd on Jan. 25, and nine days were above 32 degrees, compared to a year earlier when the high temperature was 41 degrees and there were five days above 32 degrees.
In November 2000, Mortensen reported, in the Brainerd area there were only three days above freezing. This past November, four days were below freezing.
"The major difference has been in the temperatures," said Mortensen.
It's been such a warm winter season that lakes didn't freeze over until around Christmas time, about a month later than usual.
"I don't think I've ever seen anything like it," said Tim Bastrup, DNR area fisheries supervisor. He noted that the lake freeze won't affect spring or summer lake levels, only the lakes biology. "It's been such a strange year."
What effect the lack of snow may have this spring and summer on flooding and lake levels is unknown, Boulay said, especially with two months of winter left in 2002.
"February can be an unpredictable month as far as snowstorms are concerned," said Boulay. "We'll see what happens."
Also in the forecast for 2002 is the weather phenomenon El Nio. Though El Nio didn't influence the current high temperatures, the National Weather Service in Duluth reported, it could mean much more rainfall this spring.
Last seen in 1990-1994 and 1997-1998, El Nio is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather and climate around the globe.
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